A behind the scenes look into maintenance practices including past, present and future development plans of the Lac la Biche Golf Club.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

10 Year County Capital Project Update

In 2009, the golf course entered into a purchase agreement with Lac La Biche County. After lawyers from both sides hammered out a deal, the golf course and all it's fixed assets (with the exception of all turf equipment and tools) was sold to the county. In exchange the club would operate as it always has.  We are still run by a board of elected directors, we are still a "not for profit society" (meaning any profits or deficits go back into the golf club), all daily operations are performed by "non-county staff" and any equipment, tools, course supplies and operating practises are accomplished with out county assistance or funding. So why did we enter into this agreement with the county since it seems things are operational like they always have been? The biggest caveat for the golf club was the guaranteed infusion of capital to address all future capital projects for the club.
At the suggestion of the county, I produced an in depth and comprehensive 10 Year Capital Plan valued at approximately 4 millions dollars. (In a future post I will highlight all projects addressed in the 10 year capital plan) Being non profit and open for roughly 6 months of the year, the club found it difficult to address certain capital projects without taking on too much debt. The county saw the golf club as a great asset to compliment it's parks and recreation facilities. The golf course is a big draw to both locals and visitors who can play a beautiful course at a very affordable price. Here is a list of accomplished projects with pictures and approx. pricing that have occurred since 2009:

2009:    Re-shaping and Paving of parking lot & town water and sewer upgrades. (400K)
             (See Apr. 24/2011 posting)

2010:    50hp and 25hp Irrigation Pump Rebuild (25K)
             New Irrigation Soft Start System (26K)
             Pumper Truck Irrigation Well Clean Out and Dug Out Work (9K)
             New Tee to Green Cart Path Construction & Gravel (92K)
             (See |Apr. 7/2011 posting)
             Out House Septic Tanks (9K)
             Stucco Work on the Club House (30K)
             Barricades for the Parking Lot (12K)

2011:    Re-Gravel Existing Green to Tee Cart Paths (19K)
             Paving of #7 Cart Path / Access Road (46K)
             Cart Shed Construction (53K)
             New Maintenance Shop Roof Construction (16K)
             Basement Up Grades and Carpeting / Pro shop Relocation Downstairs (12K)

Pumper truck sucking out water well. 60 truck loads and almost 20 cubic yards of
sludge and debris removed. No wonder pumps and irrigation heads were failing.


Pumps and electric motors being pulled from pump house.
Notice the clogged inlet screen at bottom of pump.

Rebuilt pumps and motors being installed in pump house.
Dropping motors onto pump shafts.

Septic tank placed and ready to be buried. Out houses behind
driving range tee, #4 green and #15 tee completed.
GLBY paving #7 cart path and access road from club house
to maintenance shop. (approx. 500 linear meters)
Completed 8 feet wide path. Edges to be completed
in spring 2012.

Prepping and levelling base for new 30 x 80 cart shed.
Approx. 105 cubic yards of gravel brought in.

6 x 6 laminated treated posts and cross members in place.

Bottom framing completed.

Roof trusses built on ground and ready to be lifted onto cart shed.

Rafters being dropped into place.

All framing done. Ready for exterior cladding (tin), soffit work and garage doors.

Completed cart shed able to hold 60 carts.

Starting construction on the 24 x 50 maintenance shop roof. Hard to believe this
building was the original club house when the first 9 holes were built in the early 1950"s.
Apart from the roof, the building is still very sound all be it too small for our needs.

Roof trusses in place and ready for tin.

Completed roof and they way it should have been done years ago.

The past 3 years has seen a lot of improvements to the golf course with many more to come. Almost $750,000 has been spent to date. Without the purchase of the golf course from Lac la Biche County, none of these projects would have come to fruition. The members and visitors to the area are the beneficiary's of this merger. On a personal level, it's an exciting time for me spear heading projects and working closely with the county to provide our members and guests a scenic and enjoyable golfing experience on a "true gem" of a course.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Whacky Winter

Going into my 10th year at the Lac La Biche Golf Club, I have yet to experience the type of winter we have so far. Even life long locals can't remember experiencing a winter like this. Above normal temps (with the exception of Jan 14-21), rain (minimal snow) and the occasional high winds has created a virtual ice scape of the golf course. Good news for a relatively "easy" winter but potential bad news for the golf course. There are 4 winter kill concerns golf superintendents dread in this province. I will highlight each and explain why they damage turf.

1) Turf Pathogens (Disease)

Pink Snow Mold
The most common winter turf diseases that affects our turf is pink snow mold (Microdochium nivale) and grey snow mold (Typhula incarnata). Pink snow mold (also called Fusarium Patch or Microdochium Patch) is most common in spring and fall when temperatures fall between 0 and 10 degrees Celsius. It's name can be misleading since snow cover is not necessary for the disease to be present. It's relatively easy to diagnose especially when white-pink mycelium is present on infected leaf blades. Mycelium is the vegetative part of a fungus (Fuzz seen on mold). Cool and moist conditions on growing turf can favour the development of the disease.

Grey Snow Mold
Grey snow mold (also called Typhula Blight) generally requires at least 60 days of snow cover to develop. It's problematic especially if turf is high in nitrogen (not hardened off), high in moisture, poor draining and high in excessive thatch. Control of these diseases is best utilised using an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach. This entails a combination of Cultural, Biological and Chemical controls which I will discuss in a future post. 

2) Crown Hydration

         Crown hydration occurs when turf breaks dormancy, takes in water and then suddenly freezes. Damage usually occurs when warm temperatures are followed by quick drops in soil temperatures. Plant hardiness is generally reduced at this time when exposed to thawing. Free moisture(usually from melting snow or precipitation) around the crown of the plant freezes and draws water from the cell. This form of winter kill is more likely to occur in early spring once the snow begins to melt and there is excessive moisture present. Low-lying areas on turf where water sits, poor drainage, and heavy soils are more prone to crown hydration. Problematic greens on our golf course are:
#3 (back), #4 (middle) #5 (right side) #8 (left side), #11 (middle), #12 (left side),
#13 (right side), #15 (middle), #16 (middle) and #17 (middle).

3) Ice Damage (Anoxia)

Ice Damage on a Green
       Perhaps our most problematic winter kill issue. Typically we experience a January or February thaw. This free water then collects into low lying areas of the greens and re-freezes causing ice. The formation of an ice layer prevents oxygen from reaching the turf (anoxia). Because the turf is suffocated, toxic gases are produced (carbon dioxide) and the turf dies. Studies have shown that bentgrass (Agrostis palustris) can survive ice cover 90 - 120 days whereas annual bluegrass (Poa annua) can survive up to 60 days. These numbers are not exact and winter kill can occur in as little as a months time. Greens mentioned in the crown hydration section are at particular risk of ice formation. Unlike fungicides that can protect turf from diseases form 120 to 150 days, no amount of fungicides can protect the turf from ice damage (anoxia). The best control is not allowing free water from occurring in the first place. A next to impossible task in our climate.

4) Dessication (Wind)
      Desiccation can best be described as "drying out" or dehydrating. Plants that are dormant do not actively take up water like they do during the growing season. When turf is exposed to dry wind, leaf tissue and other above ground plant parts may dry to the point of unrepairable damage. Open areas and very low amounts of soil moisture can increase the potential for dessication damage. The best control is a consistent snow layer which insulates the underlying turf. Normally not a problem here but potentially so with our lack of snow this winter.

#3 Green (50mm of Ice)
My biggest concern this winter is the potential for severe ice damage on our greens. We recorded over 70mm of rain the first week of January. This was followed by freezing temperatures that encased the golf course in ice. Last week I chipped away on the back of #3 green and found 50mm of ice. This currently represents our thickest ice on the greens while the average is roughly 20mm. It would be easy for me to stress and lose sleep over the amount of ice on the course. The reality is, time will tell if we experience any winter kill. The good news is we had a great fall where the turf hardened off, my fungicide applications went down without a hitch, I top dressed all the greens heavily with sand and all 20 greens were tarped. Lets hope for an early spring so that the ice layer doesn't exede the 60 or 90 day window.